The killing of the elusive ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during a military operation in northwest Syria by the United States Special Forces brings the curtains down on one of the violent chapters in global terrorism. However, as an idea and an ideology, Baghdadi, who dreamt of a medieval caliphate, remains a global threat. The very radical faith, the Salafist dream of establishing the rule of Sharia through the barrel of Kalashnikovs will continue to inspire deranged fanatics till it is defeated by the counter-narrative of peace and global brotherhood. Ironically, it was a series of follies of the US that led to the creation of Frankenstein monsters like Al-Qaeda and ISIS. Baghdadi, who led one of the most brutal terror campaigns in modern history after proclaiming himself as a caliph in July 2014, was one such monster. From arming Afghan rebels against the Soviets in the 1980s to the invasion of Iraq on the basis of bogus intelligence, America’s blunders gave birth to Bhasmasura-like demons who eventually turned against their creators. This flawed policy of supporting insurgency started a chain of events —the animosity with Afghans led to the birth of Taliban and Al-Qaeda, the 9/11 terror strikes; the terror strikes led to the invasion of Afghanistan and bombing of Iraq; the havoc in Iraq led to the birth of ISIS—that has imposed a heavy price on the world. The macabre irony is that the US now goes to town seeking a tag of global saviour for itself after destroying its own monster.
If the 00is today a jihadi den, it is primarily because of the US hubris and arrogance. A nondescript cleric like Baghdadi shot into prominence only after his incarceration by the US as it gave him a larger cause — an uprising against the US and establishment of a caliphate. Later, the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, notably in Syria, presented Baghdadi and ISIS with an opportunity for swift expansion as the Syrian government lost control of large parts of the country. Under his command, the group expanded into Syria with the help of the local al-Nusra front— the Syrian franchise of Al-Qaeda which he later gobbled up — and gradually swept through large parts of Iraq and Syria, creating a small empire with its capital at al-Raqqah, a city that was to later turn into a model of atavistic, hellish prison which his blind followers construed as Islamic paradise. Baghdadi’s reign was marked by evil acts of beheadings, enslavement of women, rape, torture and numbing brutality. For almost three years, from the rise of ISIS in the summer of 2013 to its decimation in 2017, Baghdadi remained a big source of threat to global peace.